Reason for hope

So whilst Uponnothing is away, I’m taking advantage of my posting privileges.

On Wednesday the Mail front page headline was this: The shirking classes: Just 1 in 14 incapacity claimants is unfit to work

This is classic Mail in so many ways, see how many you can count. These are the ones, I found:

1. Abuse of the poor

2. Abuse of the vulnerable

3. The use of dodgy statistics

4. The headline contradicted by the story

5. A Tax-payers’ Alliance quote

Everyone on incapacity benefit is facing a ‘testing’ process to decide if they are fit for work. Because this began with a pilot system and is now being rolled out we get a drip-drip effect as each set of statistics are released. The way it works, is that the government pay ATOS (A French company) £100m to assess people as belonging in one of three groups; ‘unfit for work’ ‘activity group’ and ‘fit for work.’ This, in principal is a good idea; people who wish to claim Employment and Support Allowance (that is replacing incapacity benefit) by definition will fit into these three groups. And moreover there are a lot of people who cannot work, who want to work and who will be able to work with support. It is even the case that people put into the activity group do get support to help them back into the work place.

The problem lies with the testing process, which according to the Work and Pensions Select Committee is completely flawed. 40% of people who appeal against the ATOS decision get the decision reversed and over 80% are successful if they have expert representation. (The tribunals alone cost the tax-payer £30m). This is of course, buried in the article thus destroying the credibility of the headline…. Overall, so far 160,000 people have successfully appealed.

Let’s have a look at the figures (from the article)

33% drop out before completing the process

39% declared fit for work

17% able to work with support

7% unable to work

Yes I know that the figures don’t add up. So let us look at this for a moment, the headline is claiming that 13 out of 14 people who claim Employment and Support Allowance are ‘Shirkers’ or whichever term of abuse you want to use – that’s 93%. Which isn’t even true on the basis of these figures. 24% are not able to work at present (The 17% in the support group are not able to work, but may be able to do so…). In addition they are assuming and/or implying that the third who don’t complete the process were by definition trying to cheat the system. An assertion for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Not to mention the fact that over 160,000 people have successfully appealed (which is 14% of the total). Never mind the fact that being turned down even if it is the right decision does not mean that someone was trying to defraud the system – many would have been honestly applying for a benefit they were told they might be entitled to. That’s what they are supposed to do.

These articles make me extremely angry. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to make and already over-long post even longer, to explain fully the truth behind these stats and how I have no confidence at all in ATOS’s assessments. The point of the article, though, is not to inform and educate but to slur and demonise anyone who is unfortunate enough to be disabled. And that is plain wrong.

But as, you may have noticed, the headline for this post was ‘Reason for hope’ and I promise you my headline will not be contradicted by the body of my article. In general, reading the comments section of Mail articles is darkly amusing and more than a little depressing. Usually the most highly rating comments are those that have swallowed the Mail lies completely and want to be angry at, and abuse whoever is the Mail’s target this time.

But, but! When I looked today, this was the most highly rated comment:

Best rated

Can it be true? Are Mail READERS finally realising that they cannot trust anything they read?

Maybe, just maybe.


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